Messaging Makeover: Getting Through to Today’s Students



The easier you make things on students, the more successful you can be and the more efficient your department can be.”

– Sarah Castro, Director of Housing Operations, Grand Canyon University

Like many college students today, those at Grand Canyon University (GCU) consume information differently than prior generations. They want fast, straight-to-the-point messaging that is easily accessible anywhere, at any time.

“We noticed our students were not really reading the information we put in front of them, either via email or in our application,” said Sarah Castro, Director of Housing Operations. “We also noticed that the more words we used, the more confusion it caused and the more explanation it took. We were answering questions via phone and in person that were addressed in our documents.”

Not only did this waste time and resources, it also caused unnecessary conflict. “When we would respond by dropping a student’s booking or charging them for an improper check-out, the student would escalate and later admit they did not read the content of the email, document, or application page. Since the consequence for students not following through on these things was high, we wanted to remove potential barriers to success.”

Rather than assume what students wanted, Sarah and her team went straight to the source. A student survey revealed they wanted less reading and more visual communication, particularly through videos.

“We created a video for each step of our application process, as well as an overview video. We then had our Marketing team condense those into small, bite-sized versions for our social media platforms to remind students of each step as it was about to launch. The full-length videos were dropped into the corresponding pages of the application.”

Sarah said the ability to embed videos into GCU’s housing application through StarRez was helpful, as was using the email scheduler to “nag” students when they hadn’t completed a step. Text messaging was also used to alert students of upcoming deadlines and of timely emails sitting in their inboxes.

GCU went from 250 incomplete returner applications — which resulted in 250 dropped bookings — to 40 incomplete returner applications. “While 250 bookings being dropped may seem like a low number to some,” Sarah said, “each of those cancellations comes with an angry student and an angry parent. That is a lot of phone calls and emails.

“Now, with our new ‘more pictures, less words’ communication style, we have found very few students aren’t aware of the requirements. We find more and more are reaching out to ask for exceptions, because the information is getting across and they know what is required. Before, we wouldn’t really know until the day of that the student wasn’t ready to move out of their spring booking into their summer booking, or out of their summer booking and into their fall booking.”


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